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forgiven this. Love construed all this, as meant to the honour of a father's court, to the expression of joy and thankfulness for his reconcilement. The eyes and tongues of men are thus taken up; now hath Absalom laid snares for their hearts also; “ He rises early, and stands beside the way of the gate." Ambition is no niggard of her pains; seldom ever is good meaning so industrious. The more he shined in beauty and royal attendance, so much more glory it was to neglect himself, and to prefer the care of justice to his own case. Neither is Absalom more painful than plausible; his ear is open to all plaintiffs, all petitioners: there is no cause which he flatters not,“ See thy matters are good and right;" his hand flatters every comer with a salutation, his lips with a kiss. All men, all matters are soothed, saving the state and government; the censure of that is no less deep, than the applause of all others, “ There is none deputed of the king to hear thee.' What insinuations could be more powerful ? No music can be so sweet, to the ears of the unstable multitude, as to hear well of themselves, ill of their governors; Absalom needs not to wish himself upon the bench; every man says, O what a curious prince is Absalom! What å just and careful ruler would Absalom be! How happy were we, if we might be judged by Absalom! Those qualities, which are wont single to grace others, have conspired to meet in Absalom : goodliness of person, magnificence of state, gracious affability, unwearied diligence, humility in greatness, feeling pity, love of justice, care of the commonwealth! The world hath not so complete a prince as Absalom! Thus the hearts of the people are not won, but stolen by a close traitor, from their lawfully anointed sovereign. Overfair shows are a
ast argument of unsoundness; no natural face hath so clear a white and red as the painted. Nothing wants now but a cloak of religion, to perfect the treachery of that ungracious son, who carried peace
in his name, war in his heart; and how easily is that put on! Absalom hath a holy vow to be paid in Hebron ; the devout man had made it long since, while he was exiled in Syria, and now he hastes to perform it: “If the Lord shall bring me back again to Jerusalem, then I will serve the Lord.” Wicked hypocrites care not to play with God, that they may mock men. The more deformed any act is, the fairer vizor it still seeketh.
How glad is the good old king, that he is blessed with so godly a son, whom he dismisseth laden with his causeless blessings! What trust is there in flesh and blood, when David is not safe from his own loins? The conspiracy is now fully forged; there lacked nothing but this guilt of piety to win favour and value in all eyes; and now it is a wonder, that but two hundred honest citizens go up with Absalom from Jerusalem: the true-hearted lie most open to credulity. How easy is it to beguile harmless intentions! The name of David's son carries them against the father of Absalom; and now these simple Israelites are unwittingly made loyal rebels. Their hearts are free from a plot, and they mean nothing but fidelity in the attendance of a traitor. How many thousands are thus ignorantly misled into the train of error; their simplicity is as worthy of pity, as their misguidance of indignation. Those that will suffer themselves to be carried with semblances of truth and faithfulness, must needs be as far from safety as innocence.
With a heavy heart, and a covered head, and a weeping eye, and bare feet, is David gone away from Jerusalem; never did he with more joy come up to this city, than now he left it with sorrow; how could he do otherwise, whom the insurrection of his own son drove out from his house, from his throne, from the ark of God? And now, when the depth of this grief deserved nothing but compassion, the foul mouth of Shimei entertains David with curses !
There is no small cruelty in the picking out of a time for mischief; that word would scarce gall at one season, which at another killeth. The same shaft flying with the wind pierces deep, which, against it, can hardly find strength to stick upright. The valour and justice of children condemn it for injuriously cowardly, to strike their adversary when he is once down. It is the murder of the tongue to insult upon those whom God hath humbled, and to draw blood of that back which is yet blue from the hand of the Almighty. If Shimei had not presumed upon David's dejection, he durst not have been thus bold; now he, that perhaps durst not have looked at one of these worthies single, defies them all at once, and doth both cast and speak stones against David and all his army. The malice of base spirits sometimes carries them further than the courage of the valiant.
In all the time of David's prosperity we heard no news of Shimei; his silence and colourable obedience
made him pass for a great subject; yet all that while was his heart unsound and traitorous. Peace and good success hide many a false heart, like as the snowdrift covers a heap of dung, which, once melting away, descries the rottenness that lay within. Honour and welfare are but flattering glasses of men's affections. Adversity will not deceive us, but will make a true report as of our own powers, so of the disposition of others.
He, that smiled on David in his throne, curseth him in his flight. If there be any quarrels, any exceptions to be taken against a man, let him look to have them laid in his dish when he fares the hardest. This practice have wicked men learned of their master, to take the utmost advantages of our afflictions. He that suffers had need to be double armed, both against pain and censure.
Every word of Shimei was a slander. He that took Saul's spear from his head, and repented to have but cut the lap of his garment, is reproached as a man of blood. The man after God's own heart is branded for a man of Belial. He, that was sent for out of the fields to be anointed, is taxed for an usurper: if David's hands were stained with blood, yet not of Saul's house; it was his servant, not his master that bled by him; yet is the blood of the Lord's anointed cast in David's teeth, by the spite of a false tongue. Did we not see David, after all the proofs of his humble loyalty, shedding the blood of that Amalekite, who did but say he shed Saul's ? Did we not hear him lament passionately for the death of so ill a master, chiding the mountains of Gilboa on which he fell; and angrily wishing, that no dew might fall where that blood was poured out; and charged the daughters of Israel to weep over Saul, who had clothed them in scarlet? Did we not hear and see him inquiring for any remainder of the house of Saul, that he might show him the kindness of God? Did we not see him honouring lame Mephi
bosheth with a princely seat at his own 'table? Did we not see him revenging the blood of his rival Ishbosheth, upon the heads of Rechab and Baanah? What could any living man have done more to wipe off these bloody aspersions? Yet is not a Shimei ashamed to charge innocent David with all the blood of the house of Saul.
How is it likely this clamorous wretch had secretly traduced the name of David, all the time of his government, that dares thus accuse him to his face, before all the mighty men of Israel, who were witnesses of the contrary? The greater the person is, the more open do his actions lie to misinterpretation and censure. Every tongue speaks partially, according to the interest he hath in the cause, or the patient. It is not possible that eminent persons should be free from imputations : innocence can no more protect them than power.
If the patience of David can digest this indignity, his train cannot; their fingers could not but itch to return iron for stones. If Shimei rail on David, Abishai rails on Shimei; Shimei is of Saul's family, Abishai of David's; each speaks for his own. Abi shai most justly bends his tongue against Shimei, as Shimei against David most unjustly. Had Shimei been any other than a dog, he had never so rudely barked at a harmless passenger; neither could he deserve less than the loss of that head which had uttered such blasphemies against God's anointed. The zeal of Abishai doth but plead for justice, and is checked ; “ What have I to do with you, ye sons of Zeruiah ?" David said not so much to his reviler, as to his abettor; he well saw that a revenge was just, but not seasonable; he found the present a fit time to suffer wrongs, not to right them: he therefore gives way rather meekly to his own humiliation, than to the punishment of another. There are seasons wherein lawful motions are not fit to be cherished; anger doth not become a mourner; one passion at